What’s your next move? We’ve developed a set of easy-to-use diagnostic tools to help you move your business forward. Learn More

Social Media in the B2B World: Top 3 Mistakes Marketers Make

By Kristy Gulsvig

Especially as the economy continues to improve, marketers across the board look for more varied ways to compete for a piece of their customers’ increased budgets. As a relatively inexpensive form of marketing, Social Media is a significant and often untapped opportunity to promote B2B brands to their primary audiences.

For years now, marketers have been aware of the growing influence of social media, and many have tried to incorporate it into their existing marketing strategies. When incorporated in such a way that supports your brand strategy, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool in your company’s marketing arsenal.

The fact is that B2B customers are increasingly using social media to help research and validate their purchases and as evidenced by the importance of Why B2B Branding Matters — the indirect sales effort is just as influential as traditional sales in closing a deal.

Social Media is relatively new in the B2B world. Often, marketers can fall prey to three major mistakes that can completely derail the effectiveness of their social media efforts.

Mistake #1: Mimicking B2C Strategies
The first step in the right direction is recognizing the significance of social media — but many B2B leaders don’t know how to incorporate it into their marketing strategies and end up turning to the B2C world for help. It goes without saying, but B2B and B2C markets, customers, industries, and branding strategies are incredibly different. Social media strategies that have worked in B2C markets are not necessarily going to translate to the complex B2B sales process. Let’s put it this way: if your company’s social media efforts have been relegated to a college intern, you’re probably not getting much of a return. Social media strategies in the B2B world must be built to fit the unique goals and market realities of each business. This also means that social media in the B2B world isn’t constrained to the often short-term and superficial interactions that make social media in the consumer realm so changeable and unstable. The key is to examine your strategic goals, sales process and distribution channels to ensure that your strategy is targeting the right people and achieving your long- and short-term business goals.

Mistake #2: Treating Social Media as an Extension of Advertising
Social media is a very different animal from traditional advertising — that is why so many marketers have trouble adapting their brand strategies to include social media. If your company views social media as another media buy line item, you’re not using it to its full potential as an effective marketing and branding tool. The fact is that social media is completely different from any existing marketing tactic. Think of it this way: social media is to traditional advertising as traditional advertising is to a sales meeting. Each tactic should support the others, but you certainly wouldn’t expect your sales people to stand there and recite ad headlines in a product presentation.
Social media is intended to be a two-way communication tool, not a static advertisement. Make sure your company isn’t forgetting the second half of the equation.

Mistake #3: Ignoring It
This is probably the most severe mistake a B2B company can make, and it happens far too often. Because of the complexity involved in many B2B industries — a very long sales cycle, relationship-based sales or a multi-tiered distribution channel — many marketers and business leaders assume that social media will simply not work for their companies. This becomes a huge missed opportunity — not only because of the risk of falling behind competitors, but because of the relatively low cost associated with maintaining a social media presence. When done right, social media can increase your company’s profile among prospects and influencers while exposing your brand to audiences that traditional business development efforts cannot reach.

Social media in the B2B world is relatively new in comparison to consumer marketing, so there is a lot of new ground to break. With a close examination of your company’s branding and marketing goals and the proper strategy in place, the returns can be significant.